One Person's Junk is Another Person's Props...

by Lysle - August 04, 2022

...The photographers guide to prop collection and storage!

May the thrift shop odds be in your favour.

For those of you who enjoy still life and documentary style photography, a trip to the thrift shop is a great option for props.  Thrift shops are essentially "treasure chests" stocked with clothing, jewelry, furniture and other riches just crying out to be found and photographed!  Not only can you find items without a huge price tag, but you can find trinkets that will give you that 'blast from the past' feel that will bring a sense of nostalgia and whimsy to both the photographer and the viewer.

Come along on a virtual thrift shop trip with me!  It is always fun to bring a friend.  I have enlisted a few 365 Picture Today friends to join me in my thrifting.  We will also show you how we store our junk....err treasures!


It's not's props!

Before heading out to the thrift shops, you might want to decide what it is you are specifically looking for.  Sometimes it is a good idea to make a story board before you start thrifting.  If it is period clothing you are looking for you might want to head to the ladies department or wedding gown section, the hat and shoe racks, the jewelry and the costume area of the store.  After that you may want to search in bric-a-brac for whimsical tea cups, tarnished silver, bird cages or books, flower arrangements and mirrors.  The options are endless.

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-an exciting treasure hunt

Garnett, Kay and Sherri thrifted together on their last 'photo/friend' walk.  I thought they looked so adorable in their thrift shop hats that I had to try and recreate the hat experience in my local Thrift Boutique. 

No matter what type of photographer you are, props can make a huge difference to your work.  Besides thrift shops, there are many places to shop for and look for props.

A good place to start is by shopping online at photography supply shops.   You can easily find backdrops and cloth, lights and reflectors to add to your photo prop library.  However, you can really have a lot of fun visiting some less expensive outlets in person.  Be like Garnett and Kay Sherri and take a friend along for company and enjoyment.  

Check out your local craft shops which are generally warehouses of awesomeness!  You can find baskets, cloth, burlap, candles, beads, paper and artificial flowers to add pop to your photographs.  The Dollar Store is another great option and I do confess to spending more than a dollar whilst strolling those aisles!

Hardware stores are fantastic for finding items such as wood panelling for backdrops, copper wire, copper pipes and other interesting things.  Don't forget your neighbourhood garage sales. Often you can find old furniture, toys, suit cases, books and clothing that you can turn into prop magic. One person's garbage is another person's treasure...prop!

For those of you who have followed my photography journal/journey with 365 Picture Today, you have heard me refer to the "old dump" on many, many occasions!  The Old Dump is a magical mystery land of prop and craft potential.  It was once the original dump in my community but it closed in the 50's. The stuff tossed over that cliff for many, many years is mostly rusted tin and glass mixed in with a lot of old cars and enamel ware. Come on down to the dump with me and allow me to share with you some prop "wonders" I have collected!

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While the old dump is not always the safest place to go to find treasures, the hunting is extraordinary.  I have no problem convincing 'treasure hunters' to go with me and we are safer in numbers from bears and other wildlife.  However, we have been know to fight to the finish over specific treasures found.  The potential for not only finding props, but for finding items to craft with is endless. (Some people in my house might say "no more stuff"). I hope you enjoyed coming along with me down the hill and seeing where my   rusty good stuff comes from. 

It may seem I am always in the 'dumps'.  I do, however also find some incredible treasures at the new dump!  There is a "re-claim' section that is often too good to pass up; although my husband does lock me in the car on most dump day excursions!  He can often be heard saying, "we are leaving stuff at the dump, not bringing the dump home"!

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Okay!  So now we have all of our junk/treasures/props!  What do we do with them and how do we store them!  I live in a 1000 square foot cabin with one closet, so my props are mostly my decor.  Scary! I also have some cloth storage boxes (designed for storing sweaters) in which I store my cloth back drops, cheese cloth, doilies and costumes.  I simply tuck them under the bed where they are hidden from sight.

 I've enlisted Kay and Garnett and Sherri to help me in showing you how they store their props.  They are true geniuses in not only collecting and storing props but using them in the amazing photographs you have the pleasure of viewing on a daily basis.


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She has props and she knows how to use them!

One only has to look at Garnett's photographs to know she is a collector of fine props.  Garnett has a photography studio in her home that has grown and changed over the years. It started out as a a small space under a dormer window in her craft room. Over time, it has grown to include a table on wheels so that she can move it around to find the best light for her still life creations. She also reclaimed a corner of the room and had a cabinet built to store her growing prop collection.  It doesn't stop there though....Garnett claims she basically speads out everywhere!  A true artist wouldn't you agree?

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Sherri is a prop dilettante!  One might say, "The Queen of Props". I think she enjoys the hunt as much as the purchase and her still life creations are absolutely outstanding.   I personally always get such a great kick out of the narratives she adds to her pictures which are most often funny comments from her mother-in- law. On one recent trip to the thrift shop Mama J asked 'where are you going to put it and what will you do with it?" ....that sound's familiar!

Sherri stores her props as decor.  She has such a beautiful collection and it needs to be on display!

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Kay is also a prop expert and she has the pictures to prove it.  Kay stores and organizes her props in drawers and was willing to share what she says is a messy one although it looks pretty tidy and organized to me! Won't you agree that this drawer looks like a perfect flat lay?

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In my opinion, it is not "hoarding" if the stuff is really cool!  Well, it really is hoarding but doesn't it make for lovely photographs.  I hope you enjoyed our thrift shop shopping and storage ideas.  I do hope it encourages you to go out and find great items to jazz up your still life and documentary style photographs.  Stay calm and go junking!

Mama J, I have an answer to your question "where will you put it and what will you do with it?".......


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